Since 1992, the Institute for Fisheries Resources has worked tirelessly to support sustainable and long-term fisheries protection, opportunity and access. Click on the links below to view examples of the several accolades our Board of Directors and staff have received for their efforts to secure a sustainable fishing future, in the following areas:
- Individual Staff Recognition
- Pacific Salmon Restoration
- Successful Dam Removal Operations
- Cold Water Flows for Fish
- Fighting for Toxins Regulation and Agricultural Reform
- Industrial Logging Reform
- Fighting Mining in Salmon Watersheds
- Fighting Climate Change
- Ensuring Sustainable Aquaculture
10 April 2015 speech by Rep. Jared Huffman honoring IFR President William F. “Zeke” Grader, Jr. for his service as the”greatest ‘fish head’ of them all.”
Pacific Salmon Restoration Program Achievements
Successful Dam Removal Operations
IFR played important roles in several successful dam removal project, including the removal of the Savage Rapids Dam (Oregon), the Carmel Dam (California) and was also involved in support of removals of the Elwha and Glines Dams (Washinton) and the Condit Dam (Washington).
Klamath River Dam Removals in Process: Since it origins in 1992, IFR has been a leader in the successful campaign to remove four fish-killing dams from the Klamath River. Once implemented this will be the largest dam removal project in history. The removal of these four aging hydropower dams (built without legally required fish passage), is a key element in restoring the Klamath’s once-abundant salmon runs. These runs historically were third largest in the continental US, ranked behind only the Columbia and Sacramento-San Joaquin salmon runs in size. IFR has pushed for more than two decades for dam removal through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process, through community action, through litigation and through multi-stakeholder settlement negotiations. IFR is represented on the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), which is working with the States of California and Oregon to achieve Klamath four-dam removal by 2020.
Columbia/Snake River Biological Opinion/Snake River Dam Removal: IFR has been involved in litigation to improve the legal and scientific bases of the federal Columbia-Snake River Salmon Plan (Biological Opinion) for nearly 25 years. Through this process IFR has been one of the foremost advocates for removal of the four Lower Snake River dams. These four dams have, over the decades, proven devastating for the Columbia Basin’s salmon populations while costing taxpayers an estimated $16 billion in salmon loss mitigation measures that have largely failed Unfortunately, several past federal Administrations (Democratic and Republican) ignored the science and for purely political reasons have refused to even consider Lower Snake River dam removal as an option. We are organizing with Save our Wild Salmon, the State of Oregon and several Columbia-based Tribes through the NEPA process, through a newly formed FACA Committee Working Group called the “Columbia River Partnership,” and through community organizing to seek better and more cost-effective salmon protections in the Columbia/Snake River Basin. .
California’s Eel River: IFR plans to bring its dam removal expertise to the fight for the Eel River when the FERC relicensing process begins within the next few years. The Eel River is the third largest salmon-bearing river in California, providing significant value to commercial and sport fisheries. The Eel is designated “Wild and Scenic” below the Cape Horn Dam and the Scott Dam, which block hundreds of stream miles of salmon and steelhead habitat. There is currently an 8,000 square nautical mile fishing closure in the ocean off the mouth of the Eel River to protect Eel River fall-run Chinook, whose numbers have diminished greatly from loss of habitat, impacts of the dams and dewatering of the river for agriculture. Dam removal coupled with better flow management could greatly aid in restoring these key salmon run.
California dam building and Sacramento River fish passage: IFR is also engaged in plans for providing fish passage over the Shasta Dam in California and advocates for salmon in a number of FERC relicensing processes that occur in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Watershed. We are also fighting proposals to raise the Shasta dam and build several new dams in California.
Statewide Culvert/Fish Passage issues: IFR has also been supporting Washington State Tribes in lawsuits to demand fish passage at culverts throughout the state as a way to restore salmon populations and protect the Tribal Trust. Representing the fishing industry, IFR filed a key Amicus brief in this successful lawsuit and we are now engaged in planning to open up many hundreds of stream miles of currently blocked salmon habitat in that State.
Cold Water Flows for Fish
IFR has been a leader in the fight to restore the damaged salmon runs of the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers and in coastal rivers suffering from low flows and pollution throughout California, Oregon and Washington. California’s salmon are currently facing an unprecedented decline with a catastrophic decrease in salmon returns in the Sacramento and the near extinction of winter- and spring-run salmon stocks in the San Francisco Bay Delta. Through litigation and advocacy, IFR has pushed California to create processes to better regulate flows and to curtail agriculture pollution that is damaging these fish.
Sacramento/San Joaquin Flows: IFR is engaged in the California process to assess flow needs in rivers through a scientific process, then make rules regulating flows, including (for the first time) specifying legally mandated minimum flows for these rivers. This process has begun in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Recently the California released a Supplemental Environmental Document (SED) based on a scientific analysis for the San Joaquin River, and a draft scientific analysis for the Sacramento River. We are fighting to implement the scientist’s recommendations and reduce current water use, instead of current proposals which compromise the needs of salmon and threaten clean water for millions of Californians.
Fighting the California Water Fix/Twin Tunnels: IFR, with our partner the Golden Gate Salmon Association, are the leading commercial fishing groups fighting the proposal to build two massive water diversion tunnels under the Bay Delta. We are currently engaged in the EIS/EIR federal and state processes to analyze the impacts of building these tunnels, along with the associated state water rights hearings and litigation over federal wildlife agencies’ Biological Opinions.
Protecting the Trinity River/Preserving Water Rights for Fish: IFR is the only commercial fishing interest working on making sure protections for the Klamath Trinity River are included in the California Water Fix/Twin Tunnels Project. The Trinity River is the Klamath’s largest tributary and it has been subject to a decades-long fight to return flows from salmon after 90% of its historic flows were diverted to the Sacramento River and Central Valley farmers. With our partners in the Hoopa and Yurok Tribes and Humboldt County, we have not only been able to obtain increased flows for the Trinity, but we have also secured a 60-year old water right for Humboldt County, that is now being used to avert adult fish kills in the Klamath River.
Managing Interconnected Groundwater: IFR is involved in the movement to regulate groundwater in the State of California. California has not regulated its own groundwater until very recently, and has been the last state in the U.S. to do so. This has led to many California rivers and streams being dewatered in areas where surface and groundwater are connected, amongst other issues. IFR recently filed a landmark lawsuit forcing the regulation of groundwater wells next to the Scott River, an important tributary of the Klamath, under the Public Trust Doctrine, which was successful at the Trial Court level and is now under appeal. Currently this river, which is a major spawning ground for Chinook salmon, goes dry in most years due to excessive groundwater withdrawals.
Fighting for Toxins Regulation and Agricultural Reform
IFR has long been supporting efforts to reduce pesticide and other toxic impacts on in-stream salmonids, which are especially vulnerable to these impacts. Exposure of salmonid juveniles to these chemicals can greatly reduce survival rates. The most important components of this effort are as follows:
Long-running Litigation vs. the US EPA Over Pesticide Impacts on ESA-listed Salmonids: Higher levels of many pesticides than allowed under EPA’s own “aquatic life standards” are found in nearly every major river system on the West Coast due to forestry and agricultural uses as well as multiple non-point industrial sources. Yet for nearly 30 years, the US EPA took the position that pesticides were exempt from the ESA Sec. 7 mandate to consult on their impacts on ESA-listed salmonids. We, along with our ally the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) forced EPA began to consult with NMFS, but then NMFS refused to complete that consultation, so after an unconscionable 5-year delay we sued the Bush Administration’s NMFS and won that case also. This legal struggle is ongoing.
Improving Fish Consumption Standards Under the Clean Water Act and State Laws: For hundreds of water-soluble chemical compounds and pesticides, the standards for toxic exposures to humans depends on the assumption of how much fish and seafood residents in that state typically consume. In both Oregon and Washington, until recently, the assumed consumption rate was a few grams per day – in spite of the fact that these are seafood-producing states and that many populations, such as the Indian Tribes (and commercial fishermen) likely eat an order of magnitude more fish in an average week than was being assumed. IFR played a key role in revising the fish consumption standards used in Oregon to calculate human exposures upwards. Oregon’s standards were boosted in October, 2011, from a mere 17.5 grams/day by a ten-fold increase to a 175.0 grams/day standard. As a result, Oregon’s toxic exposure standards are 10 times more stringent than they were before.
Washington State’s standard remained 6.5 grams/day (about one small bite), the same rate as assumed for land-locked states such as Kansas. We challenged this standard in U.S. District court and won a ruling in 2016 in our favor, and US EPA then proposed much stronger draft standards. After years of pressure and more litigation US EPA adopted its proposed standardin late 2016, adopting the same standard as Oregon’s at 175 grams/day assumed consumption – approximately a 27-fold tightening of the past standard. We expect to be defending these new standards in the Court against inevitable lawsuits from industries that benefit from such pollution.
San Joaquin and Bay Delta Toxins: IFR has been involved in the 303(d) impairment listings for toxins and pesticides in the Central Valley and in the related Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) processes. The Sacramento River and its tributariesare critical habitat for many ESA-listed salmon species and a drinking water source for millions of people. Tragically, these imp[ortant watersheds are impaired by pollutants such as DDT, Mercury, Pyrethroids, PCB’s, nutrients, phosphates, and multiple unknown toxins. Many of these impairments are directly linked to species decline. IFR is advocating for zero discharge to surface water for several of these chemicals.
Salt and Selenium/San Francisco Bay Brine pipeline: The arid eastern San Joaquin Valley has shallow groundwater that contains selenium, boron and pesticides and must be drained off these lands in order to farm. IFR is working to stop large discharges of selenium and pesticide-laced salts into the San Joaquin River, which is key salmon habitat and a drinking water source for millions. We also aim to stop a proposed 7 billion dollar brine pipeline to the San Francisco Bay that would allow San Joaquin Valley irrigators to dump this highly polluted water directly into the San Francisco Bay. We have been involved in developing the Central Valley Salt and Nitrate Management Plan, which includes tighter selenium TMDL’s, and EPA pollutant standards, and are fighting efforts to lock in this kind of “poisoned lands” farming. We are instead advocating for retirement of these unsuitable, toxin-ladel desert farmlands rather than creating yet more taxpayer-funded pipelines to try to patch up a fundamentally unsustainable type of agriculture.
Industrial Logging Reform
One of the biggest threats to salmon is sediment from poor logging practices. IFR has fought successfully on the federal level to control logging sediments and now is focused on bringing similar protections to private lands and state lands policies.
Sediment Impairment and Flooding in California Coastal Streams: IFR has been working to reduce private land sediment impacts from historic and current logging for many decades. We are a leading advocate for better logging restrictions, and in-stream flow restoration for coastal watersheds in Northern California. These historic sediment issues not only adversely impact salmon but have led to severe flooding impacts to many coastal communities. To combat these impacts IFR is currently working on creating stronger TMDL and Waste Discharge Requirements for industrial logging operations in both California and Oregon, including through ongoing litigation.
Improving Riparian Protections on Private Timberlands in Oregon: IFR has had a presence at both the Oregon and California Boards of Forestry for many years, including serving on several rulemaking Advisory Boards, and litigating to protect water flows and water quality from logging impacts. We are a strong advocate for improving riparian protections on privately owned timberlands. Years of work byIFR and many others have resulted in improved Oregon and California forestry rules for state-owned lands and now we are focused on obtaining similar improvements for logging practices on private timberlands.
Fighting Mining in Sensitive Salmon Watersheds
Regulating Suction Dredge Mining: IFR and our partners are leading the charge in the battle to regulate suction dredge (in-stream) mining in Oregon and California. We fought these battles side by side with Tribes for a moratorium on suction dredge mining in California, and are now engaged in the related permitting processes through the State Water Resources Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. We also worked to get many Southern Oregon key salmon watersheds closed to suction dredge mining indefinitely, and are working to craft stronger Oregon rules to prevent suction dredge mining in key salmon habitat areas. .
Stopping Hard Rock Mining in Key Salmon Watersheds: IFR is also engaged in movements to protect key watersheds from destructive industrial hard rock mining. We recently had a big win fighting a nickel mine is California’s wildest watershed, the Smith River. This area is now administratively closed to mining for the next twenty years.
Fighting Climate Change
Fishermen and their coastal communities are extremely vulnerable to climate change. In recent years Dungeness crab fishery closures have been caused by warming oceans, and drought has impacted salmon populations and even caused large fish kills. Ocean acidification is also hitting the U.S. West Coast very hard, and this has also contributed to multiple fishing disasters and closures. IFR is working to engage the fishing industry more effectively in the efforts to combat climate change in California and we hope to pressure Oregon and Washington to take similar measures.
IFR has been a co-plaintiff is litigation pushing for better ocean acidification controls by US EPA, and we recently commented on the plan to further decrease greenhouse gas emissions in California by 2030. In this process we have become a major voice in the campaign to adapt to climate change through regulations for in-stream flow and water supply, and to regulate agriculture and oil industry pollution.
Ensuring Sustainable Aquaculture
IFR fights to ensure that finfish aquaculture is sustainable and minimally impactful on adjacent ecosystems.
Institute for Fisheries Resources v. Burwell: IFR is lead plaintiff in a legal challenge to FDA’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) Salmon for consumption in the U.S. FDA’s approval of the so-called “frankenfish” did not consider impacts to the environment from GE salmon and could provide broad authorization to expand GE fish into American waters.
Rose Canyon Hubb/Seaworld Fin-Fish Proposal: IFR is closely following a proposal to put in a large fin-fish farm near San Diego or Los Angeles. Though this farm is out of our typical advocacy area, this farm’s permitting will set a precedent on how open-ocean fish farming will be managed in California.